A Huntsville man whose family said he drove to Decatur to buy a cellphone advertised on Facebook Marketplace was shot and killed last month in a planned robbery, according to a Decatur police detective’s testimony Friday in the defendant’s preliminary hearing.
Mark Stephens Jr., 19, is charged with capital murder in the Southwest Decatur shooting death of Viet Truong, 44. After testimony presented by detective Joshua Daniell, Morgan County District Judge Kevin Kusta found probable cause to believe that Stephens committed the crime and ordered the case bound over to a Morgan County grand jury.
A bond hearing for Stephens was continued and will be scheduled at a later date. Stephens, whose address is listed as Mason, Tennessee, in court documents, is being held in Morgan County Jail without bond. Under state law, a murder committed during a robbery is capital murder punishable by life in prison without parole or death.
Daniell testified the investigation revealed that Stephens had been in contact with Truong through Facebook Marketplace over a cellphone that Stephens purportedly had for sale, and that Stephens had planned to rob him.
According to Alabama Secretary of State records, Truong was an owner of Rejuvenation Nail Spa LLC at Bridge Street Town Centre in Huntsville. Daniell said Truong drove from Huntsville to Decatur on June 20 and Stephens got into the passenger seat of Truong’s Toyota Camry.
Daniell testified that during the first interview, Stephens, who was advised of his rights, said that when he arrived and got into the passenger seat of Truong’s vehicle, Truong pulled out a firearm, the two struggled and the gun accidentally fired.
Stephens requested an attorney, ending the interview, but then he asked to speak with Daniell again, this time saying he had a firearm and a phone box with him, and the two struggled and the gun accidentally went off. Stephens said he learned about the Facebook Marketplace scheme from someone else and it was the first time he had done it, according to Daniell’s testimony.
Preliminary autopsy results showed Truong was shot in the chest, said Daniell, who was questioned by Morgan County Assistant District Attorney Garrick Vickery and one of Stephens’ attorneys, Ron Smith. His other attorney, Robert Tuten, was also at the hearing,
Stephens said he buried the firearm and a backpack, Daniell said. A firearm was not recovered, he said, but a casing was found in a coffee cup in Truong's car.
Daniell said police responded to Executive House Apartments on Sandlin Road on June 20 and found Truong dead with a gunshot wound to his chest, next to a vehicle in the parking lot of the apartments. Daniell said two witnesses identified Stephens from a photo lineup.
He said witnesses saw a “disturbance” in the vehicle and heard a gunshot, then Stephens was seen running into the woods with a gun in his hand.
An arrest warrant on the capital murder charge was issued and, according to police, Stephens was captured at the same apartment complex two days later with the assistance of U.S. marshals.